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Open Thread and Contest: Game 36

Regular Season Game 36
Wizards (20-15) at Spurs (26-11)
8 PM
SBC Center

Instead of giving a lengthy game preview, I traded e-mails with Matthew Powell from Pounding the Rock, SB Nation's San Antonio Spurs blog.  In addition to being a really funny dude, Matt known his San Antonio Spurs a lot better than I ever could.  You can see my answers to his questions on Pounding the Rock when he posts his game thread.  

Bullets Forever: An anonymous scout told Sports Illustrated before the season thathe fears the quickness of Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili more than he fears Tim Duncan.  Why are these two guards such a tough matchup for their opponents?

Pounding the Rock: Well, as you know, Tony Parker is French, which makes him an untrustworthy surrender ferret.  He's therefore full of cunning and guile, and one could go so far as to call him* shifty*, hence the trouble of keeping him pinned down defensively.

Ginobili's offensive slipperyness is mainly due to his lathering up with KY Jelly before the game.

BF: Speaking of the Big Fundamental, he?s still plugging along, averaging 20 and 10.  After being hurt for much of last year, how do you feel about the type of season Duncan is having?

PTR: On the offensive end Timmeh is like a Cessna pilot, giving his plane a once over during the season before taking off in the playoffs.  Checking all the parts: bank shot functional, 18' footer from around the top of the key is lubed and ready, going across the lane and drawing the bump foul is running smoothly, up and under can be used to avoid minor turbulence.

Defensively he's on autopilot, doing everything by the book, but without the energy and urgency that will be necessary in May and June.

His performance has been understated genius:  he's Lawrence Olivier saving himself for Hamlet's soliloquy comparing himself to Fortinbras, Einstein working up to the unified theory, Frodo first gazing upon the Emyn Muil.

BF: Bruce Bowen's been a rock at small forward for this team, but he's getting older and the new league rules don't bode well for his defensive style.  Do you think it's time for the Spurs to make a move and get a more athletic wing to either replace or complement Bowen?

PTR: Yes, the time has come to pare down his minutes.  He's lost a step.  Allow me to quote the other writer for, aaronstampler:

"More and more it's become apparent to me that Bruce should be a guy playing no more than 20 to 24 minutes a night of physical "sick-em" defense against the other's team's top guy, and really being used as an energetic pest who doesn't have to worry about pacing himself out on the floor.  I mean, if Bowen starts the game guarding you, eventually you'll get used to him, but imagine if a guy like [Michael Finley] started the game against a Josh Howard and he was feeling all good and comfy and then Bruce comes off the bench like his ass got shot with a beebee for the last eight minutes of a half.  All of a sudden, Bruce's 92 mph fastball will seem like 112 mph compared to Finley's 83 mph slop.  You follow?"

BF: More generally, how concerned are you that many of the teams' rotation players (Bowen, Brent Barry, Michael Finley, Robert Horry) are getting up there in age?

PTR: The only issue I am more concerned about is Manu's ability to recreate his 2005 playoff performance.  The Spurs need to get younger, and they need to do it ASAP.  That's the main reason I was apopleptic when I read the Spurs didn't seriously consider swapping Barry and Beno Udrih (who's young but in and out of Pop's doghouse) for Corey Maggette.

BF: Do you think the Spurs are still the favorites to win it all?   If so, why, and if not, what needs to happen to get them there?

PTR: I'm a realist before I'm a fan, so I have to say no.  I'd have to go with the Mavericks as favorites right now, by a hair (or two) over the Spurs.  Dallas is 3 games up in the loss column (and likely will earn the tiebreaker), and beating them without the home court advantage will be very difficult.  Dirk creates huge problems for the Spurs.  Bowen is too undersized, Horry is too decrepit, Oberto is too defensively passive and Pop refuses to put Duncan on him (for reasons both obvious and not).  That leaves Francisco Elson.  A huge key to a Spurs Mavericks series is Dutch center Franscisco Freaking Elson.

Dallas' ability to go small wreaks havoc as well.  The Spurs only have one big man who can score against smaller plays at will (Tim), so they are nearly forced to match up with DAL.  Finley, Udrih and Barry all lack the quickness to match up with the likes of Howard, Terry, Stackhouse and Harris; not to mention two of them (Finley and Udrih) have been complete zeros on the offensive end.  The Spurs lack youth and athleticism, and those two needs may prove glaring against the likes of DAL and PHX (who I have before this point not mentioned because they, in my estimation, rely too heavily on the 3 to beat the Spurs).

Because I haven't written enough already, here are my current chances to win it all (I'm probably overrating the top two and underrating whoever makes it out of the East):

DAL -- 35%
SA -- 30%
PHX -- 15%
CLE -- 8%
HOU -- 5%
MIA -- 2%
FIELD -- 5%

Anyway, since Pounding the Rock is the only Spurs blog worth your time, let's get to the odds.

Wizards at Spurs: Spurs by 8.5.
Over/Under on Big 3: 70.3 points.

As a reminder, this is an open game thread, so any comments along the lines of "Goddammit, Manu flopped again!" go here.